Beneath the Earth is the fiftieth release from Antwerp’s Audio. Visuals. Atmosphere. 30 copies of the album include a hand-sewn book that the label describes as comprising of “[a]bstract elements of nature, primordial landscapes and compositions that deal with contrasting data.” I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing the book myself, but one could argue that these words, too, accurately describe the music. Beneath the Earth is a compilation of tracks previously released on various tapes between 2014 – 2017, each one a slight variation on the brooding synthesis crafted by Sequences’ mastermind Niels Geybels. Like much of the compilation, the two opening suites linger in dark monochromatic drones with some slight-of-hand shade shifting.
By the time the third movement rolls around, “The Repining Inlet,” Geybels surprises with field recordings of birdsong. The track acts as a kind of turning point, bringing a welcomed freedom from the dwelling claustrophobia that plagues a lot of this dark-synth drone stuff. And just as Geybels is able to bring the calm, he quickly counters with the violent, as the beginning of “Exvoto I” proves. However, the Sequences sound is anything but crystalline, — hanging somewhere in the murky low-medium range of fidelity — stripping the guts out of the noise and keeping things meditative.
Like the seemingly endless well of inspiration that New Zealand’s Clinton Williams draws from (Omit’s Enclosures a recent favourite around here), Geybels, too, manages to keep things fresh through a process of Xeroxing one track’s ideas onto the next. It’s those slight variations that Geybels discovers and hones to keep his craft going. The beauty is that with this process, no two copies are ever exactly alike, and the further one gets from the original, the more the latest copy ceases to resemble it. Comparing the first and last copies one can see a distance traveled, just as looking back on one’s body of sound work might reveal a slow evolution, a line that can be drawn from those early fumbling days to a more refined present.